What Is Event Sampling Observation?

Event sampling observation is a method of doing observational studies used in psychological research. In an event sampling observation, the researcher records an event every time it happens. The researcher records the antecedent, or the actions immediately prior to the event; the behavior, which is a summary of the observed behavior; and the consequences, or what happens immediately after the event.

For example, a researcher might make a note of every time a child cries when doing an event sampling observation. The researcher simply observes the situation and records what happens without manipulating an independent variable. If too many observations happen at once, it may be difficult to record everything for an event sampling observation. Event sampling observation is often used in childcare to investigate a child’s behaviors and possible triggers and then plan possible interventions. The researcher may include his own interpretation of the observations. Event sampling observation has the benefit of being objective, but it is close-ended and limited, which means it is not as rich in information as narrative methods of observing. The other method of sampling observational data is time sampling, in which the researcher decides on a length of time and records what is happening during that time.